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Joe Rogan responds to growing protest over Covid-19 misinformation on Spotify 

Joe Rogan defended himself on Sunday but vowed to “try harder” to offer more balance on his podcast in his first public response to the growing protest facing Spotify over Covid-19 misinformation.

Rogan’s comments came after the streaming service announced that it would add a content advisory to any podcast episode that discusses the coronavirus. The move came after several musicians, led by Neil Young, said they were pulling their music from the platform over its failure to take action against the spread of falsehoods about vaccines. 

Its star podcaster — who signed a $100 million deal giving the streaming service exclusive rights to his show in 2020 — has been at the center of the growing backlash.

Rogan responded in a 10-minute video posted to Instagram. He said he would “do my best to make sure I’ve researched these topics” and “try harder to get people with differing opinions” on his show, which reaches an estimated 11 million listeners per episode.

“I’m not trying to promote misinformation, I’m not trying to be controversial,” he said. “I’ve never tried to do anything with this podcast other than just talk to people and have interesting conversations.”

Rogan pledged to “do my best to try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people’s perspectives, so we can maybe find a better point of view.” 

But the podcaster also sought to defend guests on recent episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience” that drew criticism, calling them “highly credentialed, very intelligent, very accomplished people,” offering “an opinion that’s different from the mainstream narrative.” 

“I wanted to hear what their opinion is,” Rogan said, later adding: “I do not know if they’re right. I don’t know because I’m not a doctor, I’m not a scientist. I’m just a person who sits down and talks to people and has conversations with them.”

Rogan’s comments came as Spotify faced mounting pressure to stop Covid-19 misinformation being shared on the platform unchecked.

Canadian-American musician Neil Young demanded his music be removed from the service last week over the controversy, saying Spotify “can have Rogan or Young. Not both,” in an open letter on Jan. 24 that was later deleted from his official website, according to Rolling Stone magazine. Spotify on Wednesday said it agreed to remove Young’s music.

Other artists, including Canadian musician Joni Mitchell, have since sought to follow suit. Nils Lofgren, the Bruce Springsteen guitarist, became the latest to do so on Sunday.

Joe Rogan has faced backlash for questioning vaccine safety during the pandemic.Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images file

“Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives,” Mitchell wrote in a post on her website on Friday. “I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”

Rogan addressed the development, saying: “I’m very sorry that they feel that way. I most certainly don’t want that,” adding that he has “always been a Neil Young fan.”

Prince Harry and Meghan also addressed the controversy earlier Sunday, writing in a statement through their Archewell foundation that they had expressed concerns to Spotify “about the all too real consequences of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform.”

The couple announced in 2020 that they would produce and host podcasts exclusively on Spotify through their audio production company, Archewell Audio.

“We look to Spotify to meet this moment and are committed to continuing our work together as it does,” they added.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek sought to address the backlash as he laid out a new plan for the streaming service to clamp down on Covid misinformation.

In a statement Sunday, Ek announced a series of new measures aimed at addressing misinformation on the platform, including adding content advisories to any podcast episode discussing Covid-19.

“This advisory will direct listeners to our dedicated COVID-19 Hub, a resource that provides easy access to data-driven facts, up-to-date information as shared by scientists, physicians, academics and public health authorities around the world, as well as links to trusted sources,” Ek said.

He also said Spotify would be publishing its “long-standing Platform Rules,” which are now featured on the company’s website, and said the streaming service would be “testing ways” to highlight its rules to “raise awareness around what’s acceptable and help creators understand their accountability for the content they post on our platform.”

In his video statement, Rogan said he was supportive of Spotify’s decision to introduce content advisories. He also said he wanted to thank the streaming service for “being so supportive during this time” and lamented that it was “taking so much heat” over the issue. 

Rogan has faced backlash over the course of the pandemic for repeatedly sharing and providing a platform for misinformation around the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccines. 

In December, around 270 doctors, researchers, and other health care professionals in a wide range of fields signed an open letter calling on Spotify to introduce measures to address misinformation about the virus on its platform. 

The letter’s authors specifically took aim at an interview Rogan aired with a doctor, Robert Malone, who said Americans had been “hypnotized” into wearing masks and getting vaccinated.

Rogan also appeared to discourage young people from getting vaccinated in an April 2021 episode and has previously appeared to promote the use of ivermectin to combat Covid-19 after saying he was using the widely discredited drug after testing positive for the virus. 

Rogan has previously insisted that he isn’t “an anti-vax person” and that he should not be considered a source of medical advice, as he isn’t a doctor. Rogan did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

By Chantal Da Silva | NBC News

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